KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Ted Ligety took his time showing up at the Sochi Olympics, finally taking his first training run Tuesday — two days after the first men's Alpine race and nearly a week after many competitors began preparing on the hill.
That was by design.
Four years ago, the American got to Whistler, British Columbia, ahead of the Vancouver Games as early as anyone, with a lot of attention and expectations thrown his way thanks to a gold medal from the 2006 Turin Games. Having thrived in his Olympic debut, he did not repeat that success in 2010, failing to finish one event and coming in fifth, ninth and 19th in his others.
"He was in Whistler for a long time before his real events, and he just got stale there, from being there that long," U.S. men's head coach Sasha Rearick said after Ligety was 15th in Tuesday's practice session, covering the Rosa Khutor downhill course in 2 minutes, 0.92 seconds, 4½ seconds slower than teammate Bode Miller.
"That's part of the reason we just brought him in just today," Rearick said, "knowing there's a sacrifice on the front side, but there's a benefit on the back side."
So while Miller and others were racing for medals last weekend, Ligety was resting and relaxing in Zurich before flying to Russia on Monday night. His first event is the super-combined on Friday, and Ligety already is familiar with the Olympic slope, because Russia and the United States had an agreement that allowed their skiers to train in each other's country.
Ligety arrives at the Sochi Olympics as a real known quantity to others and, rather significantly, to himself; someone who not only already has a gold medal but who also dominated the 2013 world championships. His three titles — a second consecutive in the giant slalom, his specialty, along with wins in the super-combined and super-G — made him the first man with at least that many at a worlds since Jean Claude Killy earned four all the way back in 1968.
"I'm feeling similar to how I did last year," Ligety said. "I don't know if that'll equal the same results. That'd be nice. I'm definitely feeling I'm well-prepared."